With the customer increasingly becoming the driving force in all areas of business, companies must make sure they understand their customers and what they want.
Most commentators agree that the principal purchasing factor for customers is ‘best value for the price’. They are not looking for the lowest price for any particular product, but for the best value.
Of course, what the business owner perceives to be the best value for money and what the customer perceives it to be are not necessarily the same thing. So, to remain at the competitive edge you need to develop strategies around what customers really value, and you need to increase your customer’s perceptions of the value of your products.
How well do you know your customers?
Before you can develop these strategies however, you need to understand the wants of your customers. For example, are you focusing all your energy and resources on making the sales team more responsive, when actually your customers want a more knowledgeable sales force? Perhaps you are attempting to minimise delivery times when all along your customers would prefer regular but consistent deliveries. Or you might believe that your product line is ideal, when actually your customers are buying items from other suppliers that they would rather buy from you, if you offered them.
Few businesses have a formal programme for measuring the wants, needs and satisfaction of customers. This kind of information is usually collated piecemeal from the sales, delivery, accounts or customer service departments.
Creating customer databases
You need to be able to gather and store this kind of customer information in a useful manner. One effective way of doing this is to establish a central database or file that can be accessed by all departments. Implementing this requires three steps:
- Identifying and gathering the relevant information
- Converting the information to a useful knowledge base
- Distributing the knowledge throughout the company
Gathering and documenting information about your customers can also benefit employee training. New employees need to have an understanding of the customers they will be dealing with. When staff turnover occurs, much accumulated knowledge can be lost. By using a central database, the fragmented information gathered by various departments can be amalgamated and kept in a useful format. Delivery staff will know who your ‘A’ list clients are. New salespeople will be able to take over a territory with ease.
Do not overestimate what individual employees really know about your customers. Remember, they don’t have your cross-department perspective.